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J Am Psychoanal Assoc. 2009 Apr;57(2):361-98. doi: 10.1177/0003065109333502.

The neurobiology of personality disorders: implications for psychoanalysis.

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Department of Psychiatry, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Bronx, NY, USA.


As advances in neuroscience have furthered our understanding of the role of brain circuitry, genetics, stress, and neuromodulators in the regulation of normal behavior and in the pathogenesis of psychopathology, an increasing appreciation of the role of neurobiology in individual differences in personality and their pathology in personality disorders has emerged. Individual differences in the regulation and organization of cognitive processes, affective reactivity, impulse/action patterns, and anxiety may in the extreme provide susceptibilities to personality disorders such as borderline and schizotypal personality disorder. A low threshold for impulsive aggression, as observed in borderline and antisocial personality disorders, may be related to excessive amygdala reactivity, reduced prefrontal inhibition, and diminished serotonergic facilitation of prefrontal controls. Affective instability may be mediated by excessive limbic reactivity in gabaminergic/glutamatergic/cholinergic circuits, resulting in an increased sensitivity or reactivity to environmental emotional stimuli as in borderline personality disorder and other cluster B personality disorders. Disturbances in cognitive organization and information processing may contribute to the detachment, desynchrony with the environment, and cognitive/perceptional distortions of cluster A or schizophrenia spectrum personality disorders. A low threshold for anxiety may contribute to the avoidant, dependent, and compulsive behaviors observed in cluster C personality disorders. These alterations in critical regulatory domains will influence how representations of self and others are internalized. Aspects of neurobiological functioning themselves become cognized through the medium of figurative language into an ongoing narrative of the self, one that can be transformed through the analytic process, allowing for the modulation of genetic/biological thresholds.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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